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This website scours the internet for open COVID-19 vaccine appointments

The computer programmer behind the project doesn't have to know people in St. Louis to want to help

ST. LOUIS — Nick Muerdter is hard-pressed to come up with many facts about what there is to do around the St. Louis region — “You’ve got the Arch!” — but he knows something more valuable: where to get a COVID-19 shot.

The Denver-based computer programmer established VaccineSpotter.org after hearing of friends’ struggles with getting a vaccine either for themselves or a loved one. He started with Colorado and in the past weeks, he’s created a separate page on the site for every state, including Missouri and Illinois.

“I think this is just one way to sort of maybe put my nerdy skills to use in this arena,” he joked.

Each page aggregates COVID-19 vaccine appointment openings at national and regional pharmacy chains, sharing updates by the minute.

“I try to be very courteous to their websites and systems, so I'm not overloading them, although I think they're getting overloaded by just all the people,” he said.

Muerdter’s referencing the common advice shared by people who’ve scored a shot: scour the internet and the websites of distributors like Walgreens and Walmart, plugging in different ZIP codes and constantly refreshing the page. Vaccine Spotter is coded to do that automatically.

“It's been super rewarding just to hear about sort of all the people this is helping and making a painful process, maybe just slightly less painful,” he said.

He added that there’s no hacking or gathering otherwise inaccessible data involved, the process of “scraping” data from sites around the web is a practice that some companies try to prevent. Muerdter has even set up a computer in his living room to mimic a person moving a mouse around the screen to bypass some of the systems sites have in place to prevent bots.

“It's sort of accessing the same underlying data that's available publicly on the websites, but just sort of in a much quicker way and trying to gather it all together into one place,” he explained.

It's not foolproof; sometimes the pharmacy websites themselves aren't updated on their appointment availability, for example. Muerdter called it an ongoing project, adding new pharmacies and other features to make the project more user-friendly.

“It's turned fairly all consuming,” he laughed. He still works a day job.

“The goal is that this website could just shut down at some point. Hopefully soon. The sooner the better, whether that's when everybody's been vaccinated or when that's just there's enough supply that this type of vaccine hunting really isn't necessary.”

For more information about how you or a loved one can get on a registration list near you in the St. Louis area, follow our full COVID-19 vaccine registration coverage here.

READ MORE: Here's how you can get in line for the COVID-19 vaccine

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